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Beyond the Baseline

Daily Bagel: Wimbledon wrap-up

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNMqDY8SInw

The Daily Bagel is your dose of the interesting reporting, writing and quipping from around the Internet.

• Video: Archived footage of Fred Perry, wherein we learn that Andy Murray is the first British man to win Wimbledon in shorts. Also, a great read here from ABC on Perry's 1936 win, which was met with a very different reception.

• S.L. Price on Britain's 77-year turmoil.

Now Murray rolled through the next two games to take a 5-4 lead. The crowd chanted "Mur-ray! Mur-ray!" and the sky seemed to shake, and all seemed well as he sailed to 40-0.

And then: Torture. It's as if, like someone bidding goodbye to an old, annoying friend, Murray and Britain couldn't let go just yet. One more time, for old times sake? And for ten final minutes it went on, old Fred shaking his finger: Here came a Djokovic forehand volley, a pelting service return, a Murray backhand long to set things back to deuce; three match points gone. Murray's brain overheated. "My head was kind of everywhere," he said.

• The Andy Murray-O-Meter weighs in. He's finally 100 percent British!

• Alix Ramsay on Marion Bartoli's revolutionary insistence on dreaming the big dream.

“That was the perfect day. It was sunny. It was beautiful. Centre Court Wimbledon, it was packed. I won in two sets. I didn’t drop a set for the whole championship. Even in my perfect dream I couldn’t have dreamed a perfect moment like that. That is beyond perfection.”

But for Bartoli to have dreamed at all was a miracle. Coached for most of her life by her father Walter, she is a collection of eccentricities, quirks and odd little mannerisms. Walter is a doctor, not a tennis coach but, no matter, he devised training schedules and Heath Robinson contraptions to make his daughter tougher, faster and stronger. Even before the final, she was warming up by running around the baseline of the practise courts with her feet tied to the backstop with elastic. No one could have imagined that this idiosyncratic force of her father’s imagination would ever become a major champion, but she was happy to prove everyone wrong – she dared to dream. Conventional she ain’t but Marion does not care.

• Steve Tignor writes that Murray did this for himself, but he also wanted to do it for everyone else.

The press, his country, his coach, and his mom, whom he heard "squealing" behind him during his visit to the player's box: Murray wanted to win this for himself, but he also wanted to win it for thousands of others. That includes the people of his hometown, Dunblane. Before the tournament, Murray said that he hopes his accomplishments can help make the past feel a little farther away for them.

In this sense, Murray, whatever his flaws, was always the perfect man to end the curse of Fred Perry. There were his natural skills, of course, which were obvious when he was a teenager. But there was also his conscientiousness, his younger-brotherish desire to please, and his inner drive, which ended up being unshakable enough to take on the burdens of being a British player at Wimbledon. He had the patience to answer the media’s questions after every match, and the strength to run around a tennis court with the biggest, heaviest, rudest monkey in sports on his back. Rather than break him down, the Curse of Fred Perry inspired him.

• Jason Gay on tennis' Charlie Brown, the guy who finally, finally, got to kick the football.

It is a tricky business to say anybody deserves to win anything, but Murray seemed to deserve this title, if not for the history and what it meant for the tournament and Scotland and Great Britain, then because this road had begun so long ago. He had taken the harder path, the arduous one with valleys unexpected and self-inflicted, and the journey took not months, but years. In the buildup and heartbreak and all of the waiting, this title had swelled into something unwieldy and unfair, almost a living being, shadowing Murray wherever he went. That shadow is gone now, vanquished like all of those doubts and second-guesses. Andy Murray had won many tennis matches before, but now he has won Wimbledon, and it is everything, because he earned it.

• Andy Murray is not the first Brit to win Wimbledon in 77 years. He's the first British man to do it.

• A great op-ed in The Guardian about the triumph of Murray and the taunting of Bartoli.

 I did not know professional women's tennis was simply a vehicle for the expression of masculine desire in high temperatures; or that [the BBC's John] Inverdale had a right to feel aggrieved by Bartoli's appearance – which is, by the way, perfectly acceptable. (She is, if it matters, and it doesn't, pretty; but who is pretty enough in these days of dull homogenous beauty?) I do not wish that Murray had received the same grotesque treatment; but that he did not is remarkable.

Inverdale had said earlier that any mocking of Bartoli's looks was done "in a nice way" and that "she is an incredible role model for people who aren't born with all the attributes of natural athletes". I would have thought that winning Wimbledon displayed all the attributes of a natural athlete, except Inverdale did not personally desire Bartoli; in that, she failed. Whether Murray is sexually desirable to individual presenters is not a matter for the BBC, and, in this case, they know it.

• Gwen Knapp of Sports on Earth discusses how the younger generation of female athletes are changing (hopefully) the way we see female athletes.

"Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No, sorry," [Bartoli] said. "But have I dreamt about winning Wimbledon? Yes, absolutely."

So yes, by all means, let discrimination flow from this incident, and make it lean in favor of a 28-year-old's vintage wisdom. If we're ever to get past the beauty-pageant impositions on women's professional lives, in everything from sports to politics, it won't happen through the smothering of misguided elders. There's nothing hopeful in that.

The young, they promise so much more.

In the last year alone, female athletes from Bartoli to Brittney Griner to Gabby Douglas have told the aesthetics police: This is what a superstar looks like. If you expect something else, you're looking in the wrong place.

• Greg Couch thinks the women's final was bad for women's tennis. I see his point, but I respectfully disagree.

• Louisa Thomas of Grantland celebrates Bartoli's individualism, as we all should.

I get it. You want a star, a name, someone to build the sport around. But looking for the familiar can be a blinkered way to watch. Several of the late-round matches featured brilliant, dramatic, and high-quality play. There was variety, cunning, stellar shot-making, contrasts of power and instincts -- in the semifinal between Lisicki and Radwanska alone. Tremendous strengths were on display, as well as stunning flaws. In the quarters, Petra Kvitova crafted exquisite points, mixing penetrating groundstrokes with gentle touch, only to blast the easy volley three feet out. Her opponent, Kirsten Flipkens -- ranked No. 262 a year ago -- committed only five (official) unforced errors in three sets. Against Bartoli in the quarters, Sloane Stephens showed, in alternating fashion, that she is a surefire star and she’s got a long way to go. She lost. Bartoli used her superior reflexes and flat strokes at incredible angles to attack Stephens’s backhand and passive style. Bartoli was impervious in more ways than one. In a tight spot, at deuce with Stephens serving, she refused to play by claiming it was too dark. The crowd booed her. It didn’t seem to affect her at all.

The general takeaway from Bartoli’s win is that this tournament got what it deserved, a winner who’s odd. The tone of the stories was charmed, but on Twitter the jokes were edgier. Bartoli makes a lot of people nervous. Her attitude on the court is awesomely unembarrassed. She faces the backstop, scrawls of sweaty hair across her face, eyes crazy, feet thudding, arms swinging wildly, before turning to charge the service line. One game away from winning Wimbledon, she sat during the changeover with a dead stare and a piece of banana stuck to her face. Fondly or not, she is called nerdy, quirky, eccentric. The strangest thing about her is that, unlike most of us, she doesn’t seem to care what other people think. She is who she is.

Grantland's Brian Phillips tackles the current landscape of global sports, and the relationship between sport and geography.

If it seems like I'm making too much of this empathy-for-Murray's-box angle, it's because I'm simultaneously really happy for Murray and not at all sure how to jigsaw that happiness into the overwhelming British Britisher Britishes Britain narrative. I mean, I'm not saying that British people shouldn't root for a champion from their own country … ish thing. But the human scale of Murray's win does tend to get lost in the mania. And even the mania itself is weirder and more fascinating than anyone's really giving it credit for, isn't it?

It's a strange time for sports parochialism, the present. Some old assumptions about the relationship between sport and geography seem to be weakening, while others are intensifying, possibly in compensation. Britain's most popular sports export, the English Premier League, is contested by mostly foreign players and has more fans outside England than inside it; there are people in Africa who care as passionately about Arsenal as does anyone in Islington. As recently as 10 or 15 years ago it was still possible to talk about national playing styles in tennis; today's young players from Spain more or less resemble their counterparts from France or Serbia. The most famous Russian tennis player on earth, Maria Sharapova, has lived in Florida since she was 7. Andy Murray was born in Scotland, moved to a training academy in Barcelona as a teenager, and now splits his time between London and Miami. The idea that athletes are avatars of a place, and that the people from that place should support them on that basis, is as weak as it has ever been.

• Non-tennis: Training the Queen's Corgis.

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